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Big easy: Audi A6 is larger and still forceful with downsized engine choices
The Audi A6 and its supercharged, 310-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, provide an urgent V-8 pounce, a striking 28 mpg on the highway and a 550-mile cruising range on one tank. - photo by Photo Contributed

Audi didn’t follow the leader when updating its Audi A6 sedan. It cornered the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class and then redefined the segment.

With a half an inch here and there in the dimensions, new and tighter tolerances in assembly and clean styling, the 2012 A6 graduates to the Tier 1 league of aspirational sedans.

And it brings its own temptations and considerable fuel economy with a redefinition of power.

Last year, the A6 was sold in two V-6 and two V-8 models in front — and Quattro all-wheel drive. Powertrain options for the 2012 A6 are a front-drive 211-hp; turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder with continuously variable automatic; and a 310-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with eight-speed Tiptronic.

Fuel economy for the 2.0T is 24 mpg city and 33 highway. The 3.0T is rated 19 city, 28 highway. Both engines require premium fuel.

The 3.0T Quattro Prestige test car had a starting price of $50,775 and was $61,530 as tested. The starting prices are about $5,000 less than a comparable 5-series and $3,000 less than the E-class.

Twenty percent of the A6 is made of aluminum, including the body panels and suspension. Its curb weight is 66 pounds slighter than last year’s car.

The A6 is completely contemporary, with a strong stance and styling that makes a fast statement. European sedans can be harsh in tone inside, but the A6 is relaxed with clean styling and pleasing textures and tones. Materials and assembly are impeccable.

And if that isn’t enough, a tank of gas can stretch more than 550 miles. I drove the car for a week, including a run from San Diego to Los Angeles and back, and I still had a third of a tank of fuel remaining. That’s an ideal range for the commuter with a 120-mile daily commute.

This is an easy sedan to live with. Sightlines are unhindered. Entry and exit is gracious, and the wide opening doors have grab handles at the ideal leverage points.

The center console still has a gear-shift lever, not an electronic knob. But Audi also places other frequently used features on the console. Within easy reach are such controls as the ignition button and an electronic scratch pad for various system inputs, including phone dialing. With eyes on the road, the driver can draw phone number digits one at a time while the system perceptively translates the scribble. It seemed quite good at reading my sloppy writing.

The cooled and heated front seats are supportive and bolstered without being restrictive. Both seats are eight-way adjustable with four-way lumbar adjustment for the driver. There are 37.4 inches of back-seat legroom, a comfortable seatback angle and a broad fold-down armrest. The center position is slim, with compromised footroom from a tall transmission tunnel. Trunk space is wide, square and expandable with a 60/40 folding seatback.

Ride quality can be set for comfort, sport or an automatic mode to let the system set the pace. The steering weight is uncommonly light for a Euro four-door, but the effect is still sharp and communicative — and deadly precise when diving into a corner.

The brakes — 14-inch fronted vented discs, 13-inch rear — give an absolute response without throwing occupants from their seats.

Audi leveraged comfort, creativity and fuel economy to raise its A6 to a world standard of prestige and luxury. It’s a subtle sedan, but elite. For those who want more drama on their daily drive, Audi’s sleek A7 Sportback is based on the A6, but with fastback styling. To make that statement will cost around $60,000 to start, which could make the A6 a value statement.